Today is CSA pick up day, and last night I still had a veggie drawer full of goodies from our first CSA haul. To prepare for my half marathon, I was avoiding dairy and fibrous foods like beans, fruits, and greens...so my drawer full of farm fresh veggies was just sitting there, waiting and temping me.
Difficult as it was, my pre-race diet paid off, and I rocked the Rock n Roll half marathon, beating my 2.5 hour goal, and finishing in 2 hours and 20 minutes, not walking once, and having the most unbelievable experience. After the race, Amanda, Cynthia, and I lounged in a hotel room, covered in bags of ice, sipping champagne, and gorging ourselves on anything and everything in sight. And since then, I’ve been filling up on the foods I was craving leading up to the race. Cheeseburger and yam fries with lemony aioli, cheesy black bean enchiladas with a hearty dollop of sour cream, yogurt with nectarines and a drizzle of maple syrup, mint brownie ice cream with nuts, and last night, the foods I was craving most of all: tons of veggies.
I decided to use up all of the remaining CSA items in one go (except for the big fuzzy leaves of apple mint, which might just get steeped in creamy custard and frozen into a minty ice cream this weekend). We had already polished off the strawberries, lettuce, and spinach (basically the moment they arrived). The remaining bok choy, green onions, garlic scapes, cilantro, and carrots, combined with a few things I had at home, made for one tasty veggie-filled CSA Sandwich… one that Evan, the meat-eatingest guy I know, said he’d order off a menu. It may not have been pretty, but it was damn tasty.
I halved the bok choy lengthwise, and drizzled it with olive oil and sprinkle of red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Then I threw that, and the green onions (whole) on the grill. Meanwhile, I made a quick carrot pickle, bathing matchstick carrots in rice vinegar, sugar, and salt. I blended the garlic scapes and cilantro with some basil, walnuts, and olive oil to form a thick and delish pesto-esque paste. All of these components, plus a little cottage cheese (and Sriracha for Evan), went between slices of whole grain toast. Fresh, crunchy, smoky, and flavorful… the randomly delicious post-race CSA Sandwich.
Bring on the veggies…who said all cravings are bad for you?
I don’t really know how I got suckered into it… Amanda and some of the gals were signing up, and somehow they dragged me along with them. One of my 25 goals for age 25 is to run a half marathon, so I guess I’m happy I signed up. We’ll see how happy I am Sunday. My training has resulted in a hopefully healed foot injury, zero pounds shed, an amazing 10 mile-I-can’t-believe-this-is-so-easy run, a 6.5 mile-almost-ended-in-severe-runners-trots (look it up) run, and several 4-5 mile-OMG-this-is-so-hard runs.
As race-day nears, I’m trying to ‘eat healthy’ and ‘carb up’… both of which are funny things for me. I don’t eat particularly unhealthy, but there's just something about acknowledging it and telling yourself ‘No’ makes it so much harder. I’ve been wanting cheese like you wouldn’t believe, and yesterday I almost had Evan convinced to go to the store and get me a Squirt at 9PM because I was DYING for soda. I NEVER drink soda!
I also think carbo-loading during race week is a silly concept, for me anyway… I mean, how is this any different than usual? I guess I was meant to be a runner or something, because let me tell ya, I carbo-load on a weekly basis, race or no. I keep hearing about how exciting it is to get to eat tons of pasta on race week, and how stoked people are to be carbin’ up, but for me, nothing has really changed. Maybe that’s why I can run 10 miles without stopping, but I can’t seem to drop a pant-size?
I guess I’m just going to keep trying to eat fairly normal this week… with a little less butter and cheese, among other things (see reference to runner’s trots, above). I did make a pretty basic, simple, and fantastic (albeit cheesy) lasagna that I’ve noshed on for the last 3 meals… so for all those runners out there that are really hyped about the carbs this week, this one’s for you.
Too Cheesy for Race Week Lasagna
1 box super easy no-boil Lasagna noodles
4 cups tomato sauce (I used Mel’s homegrown)
1 pound Italian Chicken Sausage
½ onion- diced
2 cloves garlic- minced
1 large zucchini- diced
½ cup fresh basil
Olive oil, salt, pepper
About 8 oz Ricotta
About 8 oz Cottage Cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1 cup shredded cheddar
½ cup grated parmesan
½ cup fresh mozzarella (one small ball)
For sauce: Heat olive oil over medium, and add onion. Cook until translucent. Add zucchini, garlic, and sausage, cook until sausage is cooked through. Add basil and tomato sauce, and simmer until flavors meld. Salt and pepper to your liking. Also throw in some thyme or oregano if you have it. I think I even threw in a pinch of cinnamon. And maybe a few red pepper flakes…In a separate bowl, mix together ricotta, cottage cheese, parmesan, and eggs. Add more cottage cheese if you like. Hey... it's race week, you'll burn it off!
Preheat oven to 375. Spray 9X13 baking pan. Layer in sauce, uncooked noodles no-boil noodles, ricotta mixture, mozz and chedd, sauce. Repeat until everything is gone. About 4 layers later. Top with shredded fresh mozzarella and foil. Bake 50-60 minutes until bubbly in the middle and crispy on the edges. Remove foil for the last 5-10 minutes, to melt the fresh mozzarella.
Eat during race week… or, if you’re like me, any and every week will do just fine.
Last year, I had whirlwind summer romance…with nectarines. It was love with every juicy, sweet, slightly tart summery bite.
They quickly became my favorite fruit. I don’t know why the sudden swooning, but prior to last summer, I could have cared less about stone fruits. Apricots were better dried, plums were too sour, peaches were too fuzzy and flavorless, and as far as I was concerned, nectarines were just another smooth peach. Maybe it was because everything looks better in the sunshine, or I was overcome by the giddiness of summer love…whatever the reason, I fell for them, and I fell hard. I think I ate a nectarine every day last summer. I cut them up into my yogurt and oatmeal, I ate them whole, juices dripping from chin, I sliced and drizzled them with honey, I baked them under crispy streusel topping, and mixed them into fruit salads. Then the weather turned cold and my summer romance with nectarines came to an abrupt halt. It took a few weeks, but eventually, life moved on, and I moved with it.
A few weeks ago, nectarines were the last thing on my mind, a year had passed without even so much as a post card. There I was, strolling casually through Ballard Market, when my eyes locked on a mound of delicious golden nectarines, practically glowing from atop their display. Together again! All the bitter feelings of our hasty break up suddenly washed away. I greedily filled my basket with nectarines, and, for good measure peaches and apricots. I ravenously devoured a nectarine the moment I arrived home, not even taking the time to empty my shopping bags. It was tart but sweet, firm but juicy… not quite ripe like the nectarines of mid to late summer, but not all love affairs can pick up exactly where they left off, right? I realized we'd better start off a little slower this time around, get to know each other again. I mean… a lot has changed in a year.
I decided to bake the nectarines into a golden stone fruit tea cake, adapting a recipe from Rustic Fruit Desserts (a book I might need to own), featured in Gourmet Magazine. To ease into our love affair, I made it a group hang, inviting along the peaches and apricots, as well as a few of my lovely gal pals. As the fruit became enveloped in tender, moist, almondy cake, I could feel the nectarines soften and lose their sour edge.
I have a sweet summer ahead of me.
Stone Fruit Tea Cake
This recipe is my adaptation. I made a few tweaks to the original recipe, using a mix of different stone fruits, as well as adding in almond flour and almond extract.
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature, for pan
½ cup almond flour/meal
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
½ tablespoon almond extract
3 nectarines, 1 peach, 4 apricots- all coarsly chopped
1 tablespoon turbinado/raw sugar
Whisk together almond meal, flour, baking powder, and salt. With mixer, cream the sugar and butter on medium-high for 3 to 5 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla and almond extract. Add the flour mixture and stir until smooth dough forms. Wrap dough in plastic wrap, flatten into a 1-inch thick disk, and freeze for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375. Butter a shallow 10 inch round tart pan. Divide the dough into two equal portions and pat one portion evenly into the bottom of the pan. Spread the fruit over the dough. Break the remainder of the dough into tablespoon-size pieces and distribute on top of the fruit, then sprinkle the turbinado sugar over the top.
Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until lightly golden and firm. Cool for 30 minutes before serving. Serve with loose whipped cream.
Or not. As the case may be. Or as the cuke may be, in this case. Or even a case of cukes, if you want to go really crazy!
I love a good cool cucumber, crisp and refreshing, light and bright in flavor. Give me a fresh cucumber cocktail, a pita filled with hummus and thin, crunchy slices, a zingy tzatziki threaded with shredded cukes, a cool and creamy cucumber salad with vinegar and sweet paprika, a Philly roll filled with toothsome cucumber bites next to salty salmon and soft, melt-away avocado and cream cheese… give me a raw, refreshing cucumber, even to drape across tired eyes, and I’ll be a happy girl.
Aside from pickling in a briny hot bath (which Mel does amazingly), I’ve never considered cooking cucumbers. That just seems so… wrong. Well, it used to seem that way, until now. I always imagined cooked cucumber as an awful, slimy, gooey, awkward mess. Sort of like when a cucumber goes bad in the bottom of your vegetable drawer, and you pull out a light green mushy disaster… like that but steamin’ hot and even more repulsive. Maybe everyone thinks this is what happens when you cook a cuke, and that’s why breaded, deep fried cucumber slices haven’t taken off the way deep fried Twinkies have.
The other night I was in a pickle, trying to come up with something totally new to do with cucumbers, and couldn’t think of anything different than the usual cold cucumber standbys. Of course there are also pickles, or the easily attainable quick pickle, but I wanted to break out of the jar on this one. Then it came to me. I love breaded fried (or baked) zucchini rounds, and breaded fried pickle slices. So, why not do the same thing with a thick, crunchy slice of fresh cucumber!?
The craziest part of the whole experiment was that I had never (I repeat, never) deep fried something. Crazy right? I mean, here I am, telling you how to cook, and I haven’t even gotten to the boiling oil stage. Aside from the obvious health reasons, I always thought that deep frying (stove top, not with a fry daddy, mind you) was super scary and difficult. Just like my preconceived notions about cooked cucumbers, I was totally wrong about deep frying. Actually, I was so wrong that I wish I still thought it was scary, because now I can’t wait to see what else I can drop into the skillet of golden fried deliciousness! Fish tacos here I come! This could be trouble…
Anyway, back to the fried cucumbers. They were golden, they were crunchy, they were fresh and bright and even more flavorful than when raw. Especially when I dipped them in a cool, creamy, zippy dill dip. As a cooked cuke and fried food convert, I send you forth into a whole new world of deep fried cucumber glory.
So...take those cucumber slices off your eyes, and for heaven’s sake, fry them already!
1 large seedless English cucumber
1 cup flour (salt & peppered)
1.5 cups seasoned bread crumbs
Splash of milk
Oil for frying
Slice cucumber about 1/2 inch thick rounds. Whisk together eggs and milk. Put egg mix, flour, and bread crumbs in 3 separate shallow dishes (not mixed together). To bread: coat cucumber slice in flour, then dip in egg, then coat in bread crumbs. Repeat with all slices. Heat about 1/2 to 1 inch of oil in deep sided skillet over medium high heat. Add 5-6 slices at a time. Cook for a minute or two on each side, until crispy and golden. Soak on paper towels, and salt. Serve with dip!
Zippy Dill Dip
1/2 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
3-4 tablespoons fresh dill-chopped (or more, to taste)
1 garlic clove- minced
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons milk
salt and pepper
Juice of half a large lemon
Sprinkle garlic with salt, and smash to make a paste. Combine all ingredients, and whisk. Add salt and pepper to taste, and more dill if needed.
I'm 25 now! For my birthday, Amanda made me this chocolate raspberry cake with rich, fudgy chocolate ganache. Then I shoved handfuls of it in my mouth, late at night, after the Zepperella show. Then I took pictures of it with my gift from Evan: a new Digital SLR camera!